It's official: the Canadian government fell, and an election has been called for Jan. 23.
The dynamic this time is going to be interesting.
The Liberals have been largely ineffective and are hobbled by scandal, but appear to have (with a key caveat) the most popular policy positions.
The Conservatives, having never governed in their current incarnation, can claim uncorruptability, but their socially conservative supporters have made many Canadians distrust them and fear that their policies will be equally conservative.
The seperatist Bloc Quebecois owns Quebec, period. Little more needs to be said about that. They don't run outside that province, so cannot form a government, but dominate the one they do run in.
It's the NDP that really throws this thing off. Arguably they have been the most successful party of the last Parliament- the "NDP budget" that they negotiated with the Liberals was actually more popular than the Liberal budget that preceded it, and NDP leader Jack Layton is easily the most popular leader of the four parties. The "caveat" I mentioned above helps them as well: many (if not a majority of) Canadians are perfectly comfortable with the idea of an NDP/Liberal coalition, with the centrist Liberals providing fiscal responsibility and the leftist NDP ensuring that Paul Martin doesn't govern as a Liberal In Name Only.
The problem, though, is that there's no way for people to actually vote for this coalition, and there is a distinct possibility that NDP votes could lead to victories by Conservative candidates. So many small "l" liberal voters are faced with a dilemma: do they vote for the Liberals, despite the problems of that party, or do they vote for the NDP and possibly hand the government to the Conservatives, who can count on a geographically concentrated base of support that inflates their seat numbers in a way that neither the NDP or Liberals can enjoy?
How people decide that question, as well as the traditional question of centrists choosing between the Conservatives and Liberals, will determine what kind of government Canada has in January.